Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s upcoming state visit to India is unconventional as he will be spending little time in Delhi. By this unusual gesture to visit only Gujarat, the front-runner of reforms in India, he pays the highest tribute to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Their chemistry fits remarkably. Both are expected to officially launch the high-speed rail project between Mumbai and Ahmedabad, which adopts the well-known disaster-proof Shinkansen system of Japan. This exceptional infrastructure project follows excellent Japan-India cooperation on a series of projects, such as the Delhi Metro and similar initiatives in major cities, industrial corridor projects between Delhi and Mumbai as well as Chennai and Bengaluru, and the Delhi-Mumbai rail freight corridor project. The Shinkansen project is a precursor to the one between Chennai and Bengaluru and, perhaps, other high-speed train systems in the future.
Japan is determined to provide everything for its success: finance, state-of-the-art technology, construction of train manufacturing factories and training facilities in India, and know how to run the system.
The two PMs will also bless the new Suzuki automobile factory in Gujarat-the third complex after Gurgaon and Manesar in Haryana. Since the early 1980s, Suzuki’s engagement with India’s automotive industry has successfully brought a manufacturing ‘revolution’ to India. The rail project and Suzuki’s new venture symbolise the commitment of the two governments and business communities towards PM Modi’s bold initiatives-Make in India and Skill India.
The ‘Special, Strategic and Global Partnership’ between the two nations increasingly gives priority to security cooperation. PM Abe’s ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy’ and PM Modi’s ‘Act East’ policy promote security cooperation bilaterally and trilaterally, by engaging common friend US. This reflects in China’s geopolitical advances. Beijing’s ‘One Belt, One Road’ strategy aims to expand economic interests and politico-military influence along the ancient Silk Road and the sea lanes, from South China Sea to Europe through the Indian Ocean. Chinese harassment over territorial issues extends from India’s Himalayan borders to the South China Sea and East China Sea.
India might question the validity of its own policy of strategic autonomy in the light of the new dimension of the Indo-US security relationship. The Malabar joint maritime exercises by the US and Indian navies have become a routine feature. In fact, US’s Seventh Fleet covers both the Pacific and Indian Oceans. In Japan, the long-established ‘three principles of export of weaponry’ have been eased to promote security cooperation with friendly countries, in view of the gradually deteriorating security environment in East Asia. Some equipment, including Japanese coast guard ships if not ships of the Self-Defense Forces, has been provided to ASEAN countries threatened by Chinese expansion in South China Sea. Japan should ask itself if the above principles be eased further for security cooperation with India.
The visit by both PMs to Mahatma Gandhi’s ashram in Ahmedabad will be an opportunity to make a renewed appeal that Gandhi’s philosophy still holds true. They are expected to renew the commitment to promote democracy and the rule of law in the Indo-Pacific region.
Recently, I launched the book The Last Superpower India, published by Nikkei BP. I believe in some decades, India, with its size (land mass and population expanding quantitatively and improving qualitatively), growing economic and military might and increasing international influence, will acquire superpower status. No other country will emerge as a superpower after India. Currently, the United States is categorised as a superpower. China and Russia may be termed superpowers, but with suspect political systems and their sympathy toward dubious regimes, they are not respected powers. It is my hope that India would become a great peace-loving and democratic power worthy of the title ‘super’ in the true sense of the term.
By: Hiroshi Hirabayashi, The author is president of the Japan-India Association and Japan’s former ambassador to India